In addition to the Italian entrepreneurs who engaged in trade in the eastern Mediteranean, early capitalists were probably influenced by monarchical charters that were given to a monarch's friends, adventurers, and explorers as a way of motivating them to extend their imperial reach to other lands to secure resources and territories. Such charters gave these people rights to profit off their investments in these lands, and many became very rich by engaging in such enterprises. This gave birth to a class of people who wanted to extend such arrangements to all commerce and production, but free of monarchical control.
While this social development was occurring, the Age of Enlightenment gave increasing emphasis on reason and evidence-based truth that saw workers creating all kinds of mechanical inventions and later power sources like steam which in turn were soon introduced into productive enterprises. However this new capitalist class laid claim to these inventions because workers created them on the owners' property or were simply purchased from the inventors. (Under the new system of capitalism everything was reduced to a commodity that could be bought or sold.) This embryonic class of capitalists soon displaced feudal authorities and went on to establish nation-states with authority to foster private ownership of most productive enterprises.
Cole begins her history with this statement.
Most people today are familiar with the term "capitalism" and what it means. But did you know that it has existed for over 700 years? Capitalism today is a much different economic system than it was when it debuted in Europe in the 14th century. In fact, the system of capitalism has gone through three distinct epochs, beginning with mercantile, moving on to classical (or competitive), and then evolving into Keynesianism or state capitalism in the 20th century before it would morph once more into the global capitalism we know today.